Many empty-nesters want to enjoy their homes and modify them so that they work for them as they get older. In this case, the Chicago-area homeowners wanted more first-floor space, including a master suite and family room. But, says designer Sue Hagerty of Benvenuti and Stein in Evanston, Ill., “You can't just add a one-story space and keep going horizontally.” Adding first-floor space on this ranch might leave the house looking like a series of train cars and would have pushed the house too close to the edge of the lot. Luckily, the clients left it up to the designers to decide the best spot for the family room.

The garage, above on left, has empty space above it to balance the whole-house design.
The garage, above on left, has empty space above it to balance the whole-house design.

The solution — adding a second story — wasn't obvious at first, says Hagerty, who did not design this particular job but has used this solution elsewhere. Now the home has a new first-floor master suite, a family room, bedroom, and office upstairs, and a shell above the garage that is there to “flush the proportion of the house all the way through.” The space is insulated and can be used for storage and is “build-outable,” says Hagerty. “It makes the home look better overall and leaves it more saleable.”